Wednesday, January 9, 2019

It's Not All About The Spiced Latte! Tuscan Pumpkin Mushroom Pasta And It's Pumpkin Spice Free.

   I do love pumpkin, always have, always will. However, I draw the line at all the pumpkin spiced junk that seems to find its' way to the store shelves and our tables during this season. I do confess that a month ago I bought a bag of Pumpkin Spiced Popcorn, which was the culinary equivalent of sticking a fork into an electrical socket just to see what happens. I might as well have taken a toaster into the tub with me. The store didn't even comment when I brought it back. My guess is they have a lot of practice.
   Savory pumpkin  though, which is often found in Indian and Italian cuisine, is another matter all together. That stuff is delicious! Which is why I served it at a dinner party last night for some gluten free vegetarian friends. This dish is extremely easy to make and cooks up in no time. Seriously. Take it from someone who spends days prepping an Indian feast, this is fast... and cheap. If you've got a box of pasta and a can of pumpkin  you can do this.

Pumpkin Pasta With Mushrooms

Here's What You Need

1 1/2 pounds of pasta
2  shallots finely minced
8 Tbs of pumpkin puree
1/2 pound King Oyster Mushrooms...or actually any mushroom.

10 Tbs of butter
10 sage leaves, chopped
1 cup of soft ricotta  (I make my own get the recipe here)

 One pomegranate ( learn how to prep one here )

Here's What To Do:


 Thinly slice the mushrooms and set them aside, and thinly slice the sage leaves.

 In a skillet melt 10 tbs of butter add in the thinly sliced shallots.

Saute until they are translucent.
Now add in the thinly sliced sage leaves and oyster mushrooms.

Saute until the mushrooms are soft.
Add in 10 Tbs of plain pumpkin puree.

Mix it with the melted butter until you have a smooth pumpkin butter.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water.
When the pasta is done drain it, saving part of the pasta cooking water.
Add the drained pasta to the skillet of sauce.
Stir in 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Reheat the sauce until it coats the pasta and is nice and creamy.

To serve, place the pasta in individual bowls.
Top with a dollop of soft ricotta, a scattering of pomegranate arils  and some chopped pistachios.

This is a simple yet elegant way to use canned pumpkin, no weird pumpkin spices involved. It's one of my favorite ways to serve pasta, especially as a company entree.

Okay, so that's the recipe that google ate. More to come as I am back in the kitchen cooking and writing again now that we have a new adopted family member.

Coming up next, more winter delights. Follow along on Twitter  @kathygori

Monday, January 7, 2019


Evidently, the google fairy ate the entire recipe I thought had been published to the blog about Tuscan Pumpkin Pasta...soooo I'm re-doing it and it will be up in the next day or so. I have NO IDEA what happened there!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Cecina, aka The Little Black Dress of Appetizers

   Growing up in a working class Italian American household, I learned a LOT about not wasting stuff and making ends meet...usually right around the Thursday payday. Boxes of Kraft Mac and Cheese, peppers stuffed with whatever was left in the fridge, Jumbo bags of hot dogs from Food For Less, and waffles made with 7 up or sometimes Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer were the norm.

   I started cooking young, of out of self-defense. My mother was from a different background than my father and was not brought up to do housework, so shit got real interesting when she turned her hand to cooking.  She never seemed to realize that preheating the oven was something one had to do to cook food properly, and so we ate half-cooked meats, charred on the outside (because "on" is "on" and who the hell pays attention to those pesky oven dials and what they're saying). She baked lava cakes before their time simply because boxed cake mix was put into the oven and then the oven turned on. It's a wonder we weren't all dead from salmonella.
   My dad's immigrant grandparents on the other hand, were excellent cooks. My mom's parents liked going to the Redwood Room at the Clift Hotel on holidays if dad's immigrant side of the family was going to be attending. I guess they wanted to  make sure EVERYONE was speaking English around the holiday turkey. Considering this picture of those days, I guess they got their wish.

   My dad's family was fun. There were chicken feet boiling in a big pot on their stove (still wood burning) in their old, old, house. There were homemade ravioli, and broddo one could use as a mirror it was so clear. There were pigs feet and other startlements to my mothers old school American relatives when they showed up, and not many of dad's people spoke much English. I thought if I spoke English to them LOUDLY and slowly they'd understand me. I must have been a real pain in the ass to them.
   Mom's side were Republicans, dad's were Democrats and much fighting ensued. One fight ended with the removal of our furniture by my mom's dad who had given them the house...and I guess the furniture too evidently. Anyway, the upshot of all of this is I learned to cook, and I learned to be thrifty.  Which brings me to Torta de Ceci, that wedge shaped thing in the picture at the top of this page.

   Torta  de Ceci  aka Cecina belongs to what is called Cucina Povera, The Kitchen of the Poor. It's very, very easy to fix, costs nearly nothing, and one can dress it up or down, add or subtract. It's a basic, and a great dish to serve as an appetizer to a group.  All one needs for Cecina is a 10 inch cast iron pan and a bag of garbanzo flour. I like serving it on Holidays before my Italian style Thanksgiving, and it's perfect it if your group includes vegans, vegetarians, or anyone who is gluten free. Here's how to fix it.


Here's What You Need:

3.5 oz garbanzo flour
5 Tbs olive oil
300 ml water
salt and pepper to taste

Here's What To Do:

Mix the garbanzo flour and the water in a bowl.
Blend it together well and then cover the bowl and let it sit for a couple of hours.

Coat a 10 inch cast iron skillet  with 3 Tbs of olive oil.
Put the olive oil coated skillet into a cold oven  (too bad mom never tried this one she'd have been a natural) and turn it on to 450 degrees.
When the oven is at 450 take the skillet out of the oven.
Pour the cecina bater into the hot hot skillet, drizzle 2 Tbs of olive oil over the batter then swirl it a bit with a spoon.
Put the skillet back into the 450 degree oven for 15  minutes.
After 15 minutes open the oven and move the skillet to the top rack and raise the heat to 500 degrees. Broil for about 5 minutes or so. This can cook really fast depending on ones oven so do keep and eye on it. When it starts to turn  golden and crusty take it out.

The finished Cecina should  be something firm enough to cut into slices.
Run a silicone spatula around  the edges and underneath the Cecina to loosen it.
Now, place a plate on top of the cast iron pan and turn it over so that the Cecina unmolds. The bottom is now the top! 

Slice it into  wedges. You can serve this topped with ricotta and pea shoots, olive tapenade,  caponata, proscuitto. Plain or fancy, you name it. Cecina is only  limited by your imagination and whatever your guests feel like eating.

So there it is. A simple, easy, warming treat for the holidays. Coming up next, more holiday dishes and how I became a restaurant consulting chef for gluten free dining.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Farewell to Patsy


   I've been away from this blog for a bit as we've been dealing with some loss in the family. Our lovely Siberian Husky Patsy died at the age of 14. Patsy was with us through the death of my younger sister, my parents, and another tangle with cancer and chemo for me.  Everyone in the neighborhood knew and loved her. She was a good doggo and her loss leaves a big collar to be filled.

We're recovering and are in the process of adopting another Siberian Husky. Because of the popularity of Game of Thrones, it turned  out that a LOT of people got Siberian Husky puppies  (Hey, Jon Snow)

Once these would-be DireWolves/dogs grew up,  inexperienced Husky owners didn't know how to deal with the breed (they're very tricksey) and many of them have landed in shelters and rescue groups. There are plenty of grown up Huskies out there looking for people who are willing to learn and understand them. Just sayin'. Check your local shelters.

  Knowing now  that another husky is coming to us I'm back in the mood to cook again and write about it. That said, it's the time of year again for company, parties, and family feasting. Thanksgiving is next week, and then the celebratory madness that leads to the end of the year. Still trying to feel it here.
   I was trying to figure out what to share, since the weather has turned cold yet. We're huddled indoors as a result of the smoke from The Camp Fire which is 180  miles away from us. Tell that to the BAAQMD which pegs us today at 171... not good, not good at all. My cousin is an MD in Paradise and the hospital burned down as did her medical offices. The folks up there need any help that can be given, so if you can help at all, THIS is where to get more info. I'm going to  be back in a day or so with a bunch of recipes that are some of our favorites for this time of year.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Lunch From The Garden : Bitter melon, Eggplant, and Potato

   One thing is clear now that Alan is eating a mainly vegetarian diet with occasional forays into fish, we are really and truly cleaning out our garden. Every spring I plant a lot of vegetables, 3 or 4 varieties of eggplants, 3 types of peppers, squashes, tomatoes, tomatillos, potatoes, beets plus various herbs. This year I also planted bitter melon since I was tired of 50 mile round-trips to the Laotian market in Santa Rosa in hopes of finding them. If you live in a city, any Asian Market carries them. Out here in the woods and vineyards growing my own saves a lot of work and what I can't use I pass along to Indian friends who live in town. If you've never had bitter melon, they can be an acquired taste. There are two varieties  the Indian...

 ...and the Chinese.

The ones I grew this year were the Chinese variety.

Bitter melon is also not just a vegetable, it's been used for many years in Asian cultures as a medicine. All the info on bitter melon, its history and usage  you can find right  here. Also, there are a couple of ways of preparing it. Some dishes call for it to be salted and soaked like eggplant which removes the bitter flavor. Others call for just removing the seeds and tossing it in. Either way those seeds have got to go no matter how you are cooking it.

As an example I'll show you the inside of a bitter melon (Indian variety)  from a recipe I did a few years back...seeds.....

No seeds.....

Just poke them out. So in preparing them, salt them and let them sit for 30 minutes, then rinse them off and press  all that bitterness out. If only life were that simple. So that's the bitter melon notes .
The recipe itself is very quickly prepared and courtesy of Rinku Bhattacharya  @wchestermasala

Bitter Melon With Eggplant and Potato


Here's What You Need:


2 Yukon Gold potatoes
1 Bitter Melon
2 Tbs  vegetable oil. Traditionally mustard oil but I usually use coconut since it's easier to get.
3  medium Japanese eggplants, or 1 large one cut into wedges
1 tsp Bengali 5 Spice mix  recipe is here
( this is a combo of blended spices found at most markets you can make it yourself if you wish)
1/2 tsp turmeric
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri chili (or cayenne)

Here's What To Do:


Cut the eggplants into rounds then quarter them.

Peel and cube the potatoes.

Cut the bitter melon into rounds.

Remove the seeds.

When the seeds are gone:
Put the melon slices into a bowl and cover them in coarse salt.
Coat the slices and rub the salt in.

Place a weight on the slices (I put a plate on top of the bitter melon and set a jug of vinegar on it) and let them sit for 30 minutes to an hour. The object is to squeeze out the bitter juices.
  After the melon has been pressed, rinse the slices off in cold running water.

Make sure all the salt is rinsed off. Squeeze them to get the last  juices out, then blot them dry with a paper towel.

Now your bitter melon are ready for anything!
Take the bitter melon slices and dice them.
Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet or kadhai on medium heat
When the oil is hot add in the Bengali 5 spice mix.

Stir it around until the spices crackle.
Add in all the vegetables and stir, then add turmeric and salt.

Cover the pan and cook on a low heat for about 5 minutes.
Take the lid off and check on things.

When the potatoes have started to crisp, and turn soft add in the Kashmiri chili or Cayenne.

Cook for another few minutes. When all the vegetables are cook through and softened serve it up.
I served this with rice and some dal for a simple vegetarian lunch.

Coming up next, getting ready for the coming holiday season with all the great fall flavors. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori  

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

It's Fig Season In Sonoma. Time for Fig and Lobster Risottto!

   If there is one fruit that stands out among my favorites, cherry, pomegranate, and persimmon, it's figs. I love them. Any variety, any time. One of the first things we did when we put the vegetable garden in at our new house was plant a fig tree. I thought I was buying a Mission fig. Instead our tree is a panache fig.

Tiger striped, and incredibly sweet, they are the last figs to ripen in fig season so we're still waiting. However, we have a friend who has a magnificent fig tree but hates figs. Isn't that always the way it is? He's perfectly happy to let me pillage his tree every year around this time. I take away pounds of figs. When I see them at the market for 6.99 for a little basket I laugh because up here in Sonoma figs are like weeds. They grow all along the roadsides and anyone can just help themselves. A few years back a friend and I did the whole gleaning thing and we gathered pounds and pounds and pounds of unwanted figs. I made preserves from mine. If you'd like the recipe it's here...Fig Jam. Or, if you'd like a roasted fig and goat cheese ice cream...I've made that too.

The recipe is here.But now I'm interested in something beyond just the figs...I'm into the fig leaves. Yes, fig leaves. Straight up Adam and Eve wardrobe, now I discover it's edible. Who knew?

   As it turns out fig leaves can be used for a variety of purposes very similar to grape leaves. They can be used as a food wrapping, they can be ground of tea, they can be smoked and used as an ingredient such as these Smoked Fig Leaf Shortbread Cookies.

They can also be a simple ingredient in a risotto which is what I'm talking about today. This all came together around a bunch of free figs and a huge lobster tail sale. If lobster is ever on sale anywhere, I'm there!

So, if you can get your pie hooks on some cheap lobster, fresh figs, and a few fresh non sprayed fig leaves I've got a recipe for you.

Fig And Lobster Risotto

Here's What You Need:

1 dozen fresh figs
1 fresh unsprayed large fig leaf
2 lobster tails
1/2 cup of white wine
1 shallot thinly sliced
1 cup of arborio rice
2 cups of water
2 tsp of salt
3 sage leaves
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs unsalted butter

Here's What To Do:

 Wash, dry, and cut the fresh figs into halves, then quarters . Set aside.

Take the meat from the lobster tails and cut it into bite sized pieces. Set aside.
Save the shells if you like, they can be used for lobster stock.
Slice the sage leaves thinly and set aside.

In a large pot for risotto heat the olive oil.
When the oil is hot pour the rice into the pot and stir it around to warm it.

Now add in the 2 cups of water and 2 tsp of salt. When the water comes to a boil lay the fig leaf on top of the water and rice.

When the water starts to boil, put a lid on the pan and turn the heat down to the lowest it will go. Let it cook for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile back at the figs...

Heat a couple of Tbs of olive oil in a skillet.
When the oil is hot add in the thinly sliced shallot.
Saute it until the shallot starts to lightly brown.
Add in the thinly sliced sage leaves.

Saute them for a minute or two.
Add in the 1/2 cup of white wine, along with the figs.

Saute them for a little bit to soften them letting the wine evaporate.
When the figs have cooked add in the pieces of lobster.

Stir them around and simmer them gently. The lobster cooks fast so keep an eye on it, you don't want it to toughen.
Stir everything together well on a low flame.

Right about now the rice should be done. Add 1Tbs of unsalted butter to the fig and lobster mixture.

This gives it a nice creamy texture.
Take the lid off the pot of risotto.

Remove the fig leaf.

Add the fig, lobster, and sage mixture to the risotto.

Stir it all together.  Add a few shreds of fresh sage over the top. Voila! You are done!

Serve it up!

There it is a lovely fall lunch, light and elegant and it only takes 15 minutes to cook!

Coming up next, an Indian special from the garden featuring  eggplant, potato, and bitter melon . Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


Blog Widget by LinkWithin